Guttenberg police arrested a professional bounty hunter last week and charged him with handcuffing and then robbing a town resident whom he wasn’t looking for in the first place.
According to Guttenberg Lt. Joel Magenheimer, Juan Ocasio, Jr., 22, of Phillipsburg, first came to the Guttenberg police department last week, armed with a warrant for someone who apparently resided at 6800 Madison Ave. in the town.
“He first came to us with a warrant that he was going to transport someone who lived at that address,” Magenheimer said.
However, when Ocasio went to the apartment, he found that the person living there that wasn’t the fugitive that he was searching for.
“He went to the right address and the right apartment, but the guy he was looking for had moved out,” Magenheimer said.
Ocasio allegedly still entered the apartment where a man, believed to be an illegal alien, was living with his 8-year-old son.
“The bounty hunter entered the apartment, handcuffed the man in his apartment, and the man had no idea what was going on,” Magenheimer said. “He then [allegedly] reached into the man’s pocket, took out his wallet, and took $500. The bounty hunter then [allegedly] threatened the man and told him that he would have him deported if he said anything to the police. The victim was afraid, because apparently the bounty hunter [allegedly] told him that he would come back again.”
Magenheimer said that the victim didn’t call the police for a while.
“The incident took place around midnight, and he didn’t call us until 5 a.m.,” Magenheimer said. “He was really scared that he was going to get deported.”
Magenheimer said that the Guttenberg police tracked down the bounty hunter through the agency that granted him his certificate to practice bounty hunting.
“We then lured him in and bagged him,” Magenheimer said.
However, once they had Ocasio in custody, then finding the victim was another story.
“He and his son moved out the next day,” Magenheimer said. “He was really afraid he was going to get deported. We found him in Bergenfield and told him that we needed him to come in and identify the thief.”
Finally, the victim came back to Guttenberg to identify Ocasio.
“But he was so afraid that he stood outside headquarters, afraid to even come in,” Magenheimer said.
The victim finally gave a positive identification on Ocasio. The bounty hunter was booked and charged with armed robbery, possession of a weapon, criminal restraint, use of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Ocasio apparently had a prior record as well, according to Magenheimer.
He was transported to Hudson County Jail, where he remains being held on $100,000 bail.
No more bounty hunting here
Since Ocasio’s arrest, Magenheimer said that all bounty hunter activity in Guttenberg has been terminated.
“We’re not going to allow any bounty hunters to come in and do business in the town until there’s some sort of state regulation on it,” Magenheimer said.
Magenheimer said that he spoke with Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio about the possibility of state regulations regarding bounty hunters.
“These people can’t keep doing what they’re doing,” Magenheimer said. “They’re out of control.”
In fact, a “Bounty Hunter Licensing Act” was introduced to both the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly in January, proposed by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak.
Under the provisions of the bill, an applicant for a bounty hunter’s license would have to complete a State Police-regulated license, pass a criminal history background check, and pay a fee in terms of a secured bond before he could practice the act of bounty hunting.